The Case for Community Service

Politics and policy.
Sept. 26 1998 3:30 AM

The Case for Community Service

For Clinton.

(Continued from Page 1)

Some will object that service, like censure, is not in the Constitution. Congress cannot impose community service on the president without his permission--that would be an unconstitutional "bill of attainder." (Slate's "Explainer" examines the "bill of attainder" at greater length.) But if Clinton consents, censure and community service can proceed. And he would certainly consent if the alternative was impeachment.

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The thorniest question, of course, is: What kind of service? It must be dignified: It cannot tarnish the presidency, and it must be acceptable to Clinton. (So bedpans and chain gangs are out. Sorry, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga.) Yet it must be punitive enough that Republicans will be satisfied. (It can't be, for example, any activity that lets Clinton talk, even though that's what he does best. Just as drunken drivers convicted of manslaughter are forced to recount their sins to high schoolers, Clinton could probably give a superb heart-to-heart speech on the perils of infidelity. But he would enjoy it too much for it to be a suitable punishment.)

Fortunately, a perfect model for such honorable yet humble service already exists, and it even has a presidential imprimatur: Habitat for Humanity. Clinton should build houses for the poor with Jimmy Carter. Or, better yet, he should build houses for the poor under the supervision of Jimmy Carter. Now that's a Flytrap remedy even Clinton's worst enemies can love.

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